...second in a series regarding my experiences in Los Angeles Waiver Theaters, go here for part one...During my senior year at Cal State Northridge I performed in a modern version of the ancient Roman comedy The Menaechmi. The text had already served as source material for Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors and Rogers' & Hart's The Boys From Syracuse; at CSUN, the piece was adapted for children and became The Twins.
|This college performance in The Twins was the antecedent of|
my performance as Otto in Poof!.
I had a ball playing a bumbling sidekick to the villain of the piece. My friend Ronnie Sperling was one of the stars of the show, and though we had both been performing throughout our college careers, this was one of the only times we worked closely together.
|Ronnie's in the red shirt, I'm on the floor in stripes.|
|Our Roman |
|Lisa Michelson (on the far left) and I knocked 'em dead in CSUN's Jesus Christ Superstar. She sang solo on "Could We Start Again Please," while I (on the far right) wowed the crowd as the Second Leper.|
|Poof was the second production|
by Kenny's Prosody Players.
Shortly after I graduated, Kenny called me out of the blue, and asked if I would be interested in appearing in a new musical for kids, called Poof! . This phone call began one of the most enjoyable and rewarding theatrical experiences I have ever had.
Kenny and his partner had written Poof! for several particular actors, one of whom, my college chum John Dantona, was to play the role of Otto, the wizard's hapless apprentice.
|I directed John at CSUN, as El Gallo|
in The Fantasticks.
If I remember correctly, John had lots on his plate at the time, and had to decline the production, and Ronnie, who was to play one of the comic roles in the show, suggested me as a replacement. Poof! was a delightful little show, concerning the sprightly spirit that lives inside every magician's hat which makes "the magic happen." The score was a perky gem, and I was blessed with what would probably be considered the 11 o'clock number, if one-hour children's shows had such things.
|This is a screen grab from a home movie made of|
the original Poof! That's me in my big number.
|One of several raves we received from the critics.|
|I kept my double life secret from Lockheed, until this review popped up in the daily newspaper.|
|Tommy Tune, eat your heart out.|
It was the only time I actually created a role in a brand new show in a Waiver Production. I always thought the piece deserved a long life, and it probably would have had one, had tragedy not struck. After surviving some severe health crises, Kenny stopped one night along the freeway, to help a stranded motorist. Another car struck them from behind, and Kenny was killed. It was a terrible tragedy which may not have happened had not Kenny been the caring and compassionate man he was.
|Kenny's sister Lisa, second from left, starred in|
the second production of Poof!. In a terrible
bit of irony, she was also killed in a car crash.
I loved being in Poof! for many reasons, most importantly because it gave me the opportunity to meet and become friends with Kenny Michelson. In spite of all his troubles, he remained a most enthusiastic, gentle, and optimistic soul. It's been over 30 years since we worked together, and I still miss him.
My next foray into Waiver Theatre gave me the chance to work with my best friend, who remains so to this day. Come back for Part III of The Waiver Games...